Innovating the business model is a skill that every company needs. Being forced to radically change a business model instantaneously is something we've never experienced. Nearly every business has had to make changes during the COVID-19 pandemic whether it be providing remote work from home options for employees or shifting the type of products or services provided to be more sustainable in the present conditions.
As the pandemic conditions persist, the current economic landscape brings us advantages and challenges, particularly when it comes to consistently engaging and connecting with customers and employees. Successful businesses are using brand storytelling to create a marketing strategy that is both human and profitable.
According to Mauro Guillén’s outline in the Harvard Business Review, three conditions are necessary for a business to pivot successfully.
Align the firm with at least one trend that the pandemic created or intensified, e.g., remote work.
Laterally extend the company’s existing capabilities in a way that cements its original strategic intent.
Offer a sustainable path to profitability that preserves/enhances brand value in the minds of consumers.
On a high level, we’re probably aware by now of which types of pivots make sense – things like home delivery, online content, online meetings, and PPE manufacturing. But what do these examples look like in the wild? Part of the success equation when pivoting is adding brand storytelling into marketing strategy. Whether it's talking about finding ways to stay in business or how the company is creating much-needed medical supplies, hearing these stories of change and advancement gives us hope.
As a professional who’s worked remotely for over a decade, I’ve been aware of the business sectors who have moved slowly and reluctantly to adapt to doing business in the digital economy. It’s evident after a year of the world relying on economics centered in remote work and relying on good or services to be available exclusively through online platforms, there’s no turning back. We can only expect this transition to bring more innovation and to gain momentum.
Brand Storytelling inspires us and drives us to innovate.
So what exactly is brand storytelling? It is a deliberate effort to authentically communicate the sustainable approach of your brand, both internally to employees and externally to customers. It’s the combination of stories you share, through social platforms and websites, and the stories your audience shares about your brand that are evidenced by undeniable and authentic actions and behaviors.
A great pivot brand story that provides inspiration to businesses and encouragement to customers is the story of Bauer, the ice hockey equipment company. As the pandemic conditions began to take shape, Bauer shifted from only making athletic gear for ice hockey to creating medical gear inspired by the protection gear they make for athletes. They’ve created medical shields to be worn in conjunction with regular medical masks that provide total facial protection for medical staff, first responders and the public. Expanding into the new B2B opportunity of creating products in new sectors while offering a line of protective and stylish PPE (personal protection equipment) their customers know and love them for.
Bauer uses brand storytelling to demonstrate its commitment to customers needs on several levels, including providing support to the local communities where they live world-wide by supplying safety equipment to essential workers.
The Five “C’s” of Brand Storytelling.
It’s apparent how one powerful story can make a huge impact with customer loyalty. Now imagine the cumulative effect that many stories could have.
There’s no doubt that brand storytelling takes creative effort and depending on execution can be resource intense. So when considering developing brand strategy to incorporate brand storytelling use these pillars we call the five “C’s” to help you focus and get it right.
Explain your reason “why”. Sharing how a product is made or the reason the business was started. A creation story is not a business timeline. It’s a story that takes a deep dive into explaining an aspect of the culture that is unique or explains core values that drive the mission and purpose of your business.
Employees who are living the company values. And sharing from their unique perspective what having and expressing these values means to them personally.
Invite customers to demonstrate how they use your produce or service in their life or how they are inspired by company values.
Evidence how the business has responded to the pandemic and its challenges. Any size challenge counts here, big or small. You can be assured everyone can relate to being challenged during these times and inspiring ways of overcoming challenges play a big role in staying optimistic.
Bring to life how your business or employees are contributing to helping customers and the community.
Keep the momentum going. Keep showing up.
The point of brand storytelling is to find a variety of stories and share them often. During a pandemic people are seeking connection and community to connect with that offers support and assistance in making strides to change. Although there is no need to be overly concerned about categorizing stories, using the five “C’s” will help you develop content which is strategic, but not rigid.
For example, the story of Bauer could easily be a creation story for medical gear and PPE products, as well as a culture story that demonstrates the brand’s values. And it can be categorized as a challenge or community support story.
Brand stories are intended to create instant, emotional response and potentially long-lasting connection with people that makes them want to buy, invest in, work for, or recommend your product or service. The stories live on social media platforms and websites that are in the palm of people's hands and demonstrate core values evident to your business. They highlight diversity and are used to reach out to team members and customers with the intention of being inclusive.
During a time of world-wide economic challenges and growth, we are being called to examine the "how" and the "why" of doing business and what we can do to innovate and improve our lives. Brand storytelling provides the opportunity to create long-lasting brand perceptions, grow audiences and tribes and instill reasons for customer loyalty that ultimately help any size business to leverage and build potential for growth.
Know your company needs to grow deeper roots in the digital economy but not sure what steps to take to make it happen? Floh Creative has launched successful brand campaigns for entrepreneurs, well-loved Entertainment Studios and Fortune 500 companies. Using our proven discovery framework, we help define and position your brand and produce actionable insights for growth.
Ready to talk more about brand strategy for your business? Reach us at 310-564-6881 or visit us online at flohcreative.com to learn more.
Mary Ellen Schrock is the CDO and Chief Disruptor of Floh Creative. As a bright, intuitive creative she has a passion for solving complex design and marketing challenges, especially when they require translating branding needs into compelling concepts and brand stories.
Mary Ellen loves building successful brands! She created Floh Creative as a place to use her talent to build brands, and share the knowledge, process and strategies that have proven themselves to provide growth for businesses available for all who are ready to grow.
Sources: Harvard Business Review, "How Businesses Have Successfully Pivoted During the Pandemic", research by Mauro Guillén, July, 2020. Bauer, Sports Equipment for Hockey, Medical Gear for Healthcare. ESPN, NHL Story, "How Bauer Switches from Making Hockey Equipment to Medical Gear.", March 25, 2020.